Tuesday 28 January 2020 5:04 pm

Guardiola and Klopp are right: English football would be improved by scrapping the EFL Cup and FA Cup replays

Once upon a time cup ties, like any extra games, meant significant extra income for English football clubs.

The FA Cup final, meanwhile, represented a unique chance to be watched around the world.

The brutal truth is that, for Premier League teams, neither of the above are true any more: top-flight status ensures financial security and weekly global television exposure.

So if the FA Cup and EFL Cup are largely meaningless for top teams – and there is no Champions League place on offer – it should be no surprise that it is not a priority for them.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp and Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola have made that clear lately, in their attitude to FA Cup replays and calling for the EFL Cup to be scrapped.

Radical overhaul

You could try to address this by offering the FA Cup winner Champions League qualification. But it would mean taking a spot away from the Premier League and could mean, say, a Wigan – who won the FA Cup but were also relegated in 2013 – in Europe’s top club competition, so I can see the arguments against that.

I’m in favour of a broader, more radical overhaul of the domestic calendar that would mean doing away with the EFL Cup and FA Cup replays to make room for a proper winter break.

Shrewsbury Town v Liverpool FC - FA Cup Fourth Round
Liverpool rotated their squad in their 2-2 draw with Shrewsbury on Sunday (via Getty Images)

January is a month where little happens in business and I believe it should be the same in football – otherwise players get jaded, they become more susceptible to injury and the overall product suffers.

It is the perfect opportunity to give players three weeks off – 10 days’ holiday plus 10 days’ preparation for resuming – while still retaining the traditional festive and new year programme.

Clubs who are struggling can focus on reviving their fortunes in the second half of the season, while those in the market can give the winter transfer window greater attention.

Winter break

All of the major European leagues have a break like this, yet in England we are trialling a shorter break which equates to just one free weekend. It simply isn’t enough.

We are so hooked on tradition that we can’t see the benefits of doing the same as Europe. We soldier on because we think it would be weakness when it would actually be a show of strength.

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Scrapping the EFL Cup and reshuffling the calendar would make this possible. And I’m with Pep – I don’t see the point of the competition any more. The game has evolved so much.

VAR
VAR is currently used in all FA Cup ties held at Premier League grounds (via Getty Images)

Teams from lower divisions can still get a plum draw in the FA Cup. But I’d streamline that, too. No replays, no VAR, and all decided on the day with penalties if necessary. Create a different mindset around it.

Achievable

Smaller clubs would need to be compensated for the loss of lucrative replays, like the one Shrewsbury have earned against Liverpool. These are not that frequent, though.

To offset this, Premier League clubs could create a fund so that lower division teams are better rewarded. It might need some invention but should be achievable.

I’m not saying it’s a miracle cure but I do think it would be beneficial for English football as a whole.

And no EFL Cup might mean top sides taking the FA Cup more seriously again.

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